Free Radio Movement Scores a Victory

The Free Radio movement now has an unprecedented opportunity to win its struggle to open the airwaves to low powered, community radio broadcasts in the wake of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposal issued February 3 to legalize forms of micro-radio broadcasting. Quick citizen action before an April 12 deadline is required to turn this opportunity to democratize the airwaves into reality.

The so-called Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) issued by the FCC is a series of questions seeking public comment on whether and how the FCC should legalize three new kinds of low power FM radio stations. Each new type of station would be more local and cheaper to set up than existing “full power” FM stations. According to the FCC, the new stations would “provide new opportunities for community-oriented radio broadcasting, foster opportunities for new radio broadcast ownership and promote additional diversity in radio voices and program services.”

The FCC is accepting answers to the questions posed in its NPRM from the public until April 12, and reply comments until May 12. Everyone interested in democratizing the airwaves is strongly encouraged to submit comments, or sign on in support of comments which will be submitted by the National Lawyer’s Guild’s Committee on Democratic Communications. The CDC, which was crucial in developing the Free Radio movement’s legal strategies which forced the FCC to take this action, is hoping that hundreds of community organizations, unions, churches, local governments, and others with an interest in democracy will join in their comments. (See end of this article for how to comment.)

The FCC’s Proposal to change the rules to permit low-power FM broadcasts comes in response to the establishment of hundreds of unlicensed, micro-powered, community FM radio stations across the country over the last 5 years, and the positive response these actions have received from the public. These stations broadcast in defiance of the FCC’s ban on affordable, community radio, which has effectively prevented non-corporate voices from being heard.

Since the inception of the FCC, but especially in the wake of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, FCC regulations have guaranteed corporate domination of the airwaves. Although the FCC is theoretically charged with regulating the radio spectrum “in the public interest” by balancing “diversity of voices” against the limited space on the radio spectrum, the FCC has mostly regulated “in the corporate interest.” The FCC has favored corporations by licensing a few centralized, high powered and very expensive to build and operate stations in each area, while prohibiting low power radio transmitters, which are cheap to build and can only be heard in a local area, serving local listeners.

The last five years of electronic civil disobedience by Free Radio stations has demonstrated how cheaply and easily normal citizens can take to the airwaves, while also avoiding the danger of radio interference. The FCC has consistently resisted licensing lower power stations, arguing that they would interfere with large stations and airplanes. In the field, however, low power stations haven’t interfered.

More importantly, the Free Radio movement has demonstrated the bankruptcy of FCC policies which restrict free speech and make the FM radio dial a vast wasteland of corporate formats, increasingly devoid of local programming and passion. People in communities across the land where unlicensed stations conducted broadcasts got a taste of what radio communication could provide: spontaneity, diversity, relevance, local information, non-corporate viewpoints, and creativity rarely heard on commercial or large, bureaucratic public stations.

People across America have welcomed the fresh voices on “illegal”, unlicensed Free Radio stations and have wondered why the FCC couldn’t permit the cheap, democratizing technology that low power radio represents. The FCC claims it received over 13,000 inquiries last year from people interested in starting a low power radio station.

The FCC’s proposal and questions is a mixed bag, at best. While the NPRM contains many ideas popular amongst Free Radio activists (see below) and while it does not rule out permitting the kind of cheap, non-commercial radio licenses such activists have sought, it is likely that “public” comments from rich broadcasting corporations and powerful interest groups like the National Association of Broadcasters will convince the FCC to drop some of the best ideas contained in the proposal. The NPRM is meant to defuse the mass electronic civil disobedience of the last several years. It may be that ideas from the Free Radio movement were only included so that the FCC could later argue that they considered these ideas. In any case, once the FCC issues final new rules, the crackdown against any remaining unlicensed stations will surely intensify.

Nonetheless, that the FCC is now even considering revising its ban on low powered radio is unquestionably a major victory for the Free Radio movement. A rag tag, informal national network of artists, attorneys, dreamers, technical wizards and radicals numbering in the hundreds has forced the micro radio agenda to the national stage, and it looks likely that at least some new low power FM stations will be licensed as a result. Licensing new low power stations which are locally oriented is an important contribution to the struggle against corporate control of the airwaves and ultimately, corporate control of the American mind.

Citizen action during the comment period (before April 12) is crucial to getting the most out of this opportunity.

What It Says

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) is a long and complex document that asks hundreds of questions about how a Low Power FM (LPFM) license system should work. Public comment is sought about every point.

First, the FCC states that it is inclined to create two new types of licenses, a 500-1000 watt (LP1000) service that could be heard about 8.8 miles from its antenna, and a 50-100 watt (LP100) service that could be heard about 3.5 miles from its antenna. The NPRM requests comment, but does not advocate, a 1-10 watt “micro-powered” service that could be heard 1-2 miles from its antenna, and no provision is made for stations broadcasting from 11-49 watts or from 101-499 watts. The NPRM proposes a simplified application process for all of the new types of stations based on distance between stations, which would avoid the need for expensive engineering studies, but which would require the same spacing between stations operating at 50 watts as those operating at 100 watts, thereby possibly eliminating opportunities for more stations.

The so-called LP100 stations would be most similar to the community radio stations operated over the last 5 years by the Free Radio movement. Free Radio Berkeley, for example, usually broadcast with either a 40 or a 60 watt transmitter.

LP1000 stations, by contrast, are much more similar to “full power” FM stations than they are to the cheap, strictly local radio service provided by smaller stations. These higher powered stations would also eat up considerably more geographical territory than would an LP100 station.

Reading between the lines, it appears that the FCC intends LP1000 stations to provide opportunities for small business persons to set up stations, while LP100 stations, probably too small to be commercially viable, would be set aside for non-commercial operation.

Unfortunately, many portions of the NPRM make it clear that LP1000 stations will be given distinct advantages in the inevitable competition between LP1000 and LP100 stations for limited space on the radio dial. For instance, the Notice favors rules under which LP1000 stations would be considered a “primary” service that could not be bumped if a high power station decided to increase its signal strength. In contrast, the FCC believes that LP100 sta
tions should be a considered a “secondary” service, subject to being put off the air if a higher power station wanted to increase their service area. For example, scores of “secondary” status low power TV stations are being forced off the air as “primary” TV stations go to digital signals.

The CDC is expected to submit comments favoring licensing for LP100 stations, but not LP1000 stations, and making LP100 stations “primary”, because LP100 licensing without LP1000 would promote more localism, and would permit far more new voices access to the airwaves. For example, in a study conducted by the FCC, only 87 new LP1000 stations could be licensed (assuming the most permissive technical standards) in 20 of the largest US cities, while 324 LP100 stations could be licensed in those same 20 cities.

Another key question posed by the Notice, therefore, is whether either LP1000 or LP100, or both, “should be restricted to non-commercial applicants” or open to both commercial and non-commercial applicants. The NPRM indicates that the channels between 88 and 92 FM would probably be reserved for non-commercial LPFM stations. These channels are already reserved for non-commercial full powered stations. The CDC is expected to comment that all new LPFM should be non-commercial only.

A related issue is how the FCC would define “non-commercial” and how difficult it would be for small, poor community organizations to establish that they were non-commercial to the FCC’s satisfaction. Current FCC requirements are strict and require a corporation, rather than the easier to establish unincorporated association. The CDC is expected to favor less formal requirements to establish a “non-commercial” entity.

How LPFM Would Operate

The FCC proposes imposing what it calls “strict local and cross-ownership restrictions” on LPFM to ensure that the new radio service would permit new voices and increased diversity on the radio dial. First, the FCC proposes that no owner of a high power FM or AM station be permitted to apply for an LPFM license. The NPRM also proposes to prohibit any person or entity from owning more than one LPFM station in a single market.

The proposed rules are not so strict with regard to owning multiple LPFM stations on a national basis. The NPRM supports permitting an individual or entity to own multiple stations in different markets, citing benefits of “national efficiencies”, and seeks comments on whether one owner should be permitted to own 5 or 10 stations nationally. Crucially, the FCC does not propose any requirement that a station owner live or have a presence in the community where it owns an LPFM.

The FCC also proposes that there be no minimum requirement for locally produced programming on LPFM stations. This could mean that a private owner or a nationally oriented non-profit entity like an evangelical church could own 10 LPFM stations across the country, none of them where the owner or church was located, and program all of them from a central location.

All of these provisions could significantly threaten LPFM’s ability to foster new voices, viewpoints and diversity on the airwaves. The CDC and other commentors are likely to oppose any multiple ownership and seek a requirement of at least some local programming, perhaps as high as 80 percent. (Local programming would mean material played by local DJ, and could include recorded music, interviews, etc.)

Technical Issues

The NPRM proposes permitting LPFM stations to broadcast on channels which would not be available to higher power stations, so-called third adjacent and second adjacent channels, which could vastly increase the number of LPFM stations which could be established if the FCC changes the rules.

The FCC rules developed decades ago to avoid radio interference which restrict how closely two stations can be on the radio dial. Under current rules, if a station is at 104.1, another station within a certain geographical distance cannot be on the same channel (so-called co-channel), 104.3 (first adjacent channel), 104.5 (second adjacent) or even 104.7 (third adjacent).

Massive technological advances both in broadcast and receiver technology have made the old FCC rules obsolete. For example Free Radio Berkeley broadcast on 104.1 FM, which was second adjacent to KFOG on 104.5, without any noticeable interference more than a few feet from the antenna. The FCC bases its proposal on the small power of LPFM stations and thus their lower potential to cause interference.

In a study conducted by the FCC, 2 to 10 times as many LPFM stations could be licensed if they were not required to protect second adjacent channels. (10 vs. 43 in Jacksonville, Florida, 4 vs. 17 in Houston, 1 vs. 8 in Philadelphia, 0 vs. 6 in San Diego and 1 vs. 18 in Kansas City, KS.) Almost no new stations in major urban areas would be permitted if LPFM stations were required to protect the third adjacent channel.

Despite the FCC’s seeming willingness to bend rules which apply to full power FM stations to permit LPFM stations more access to the airwaves, the NPRM repeatedly asks for comment about whether the rules can be bent in view of the transition to digital radio. In late 1998, USA Digital Radio Partners LP (owned by huge corporate interests) submitted a petition for rule making which suggests adopting their brand of in-band-on-channel (IBOC) digital radio technology. IBOC would allow stations to simultaneously broadcast digital and analog (normal) radio signals on the same frequency during the transition from analog to digital, permitting listeners with new or old radios to hear the signals. Corporate interests are certain to argue that the FCC cannot license LPFM radio service because it would interfere with the multi-billion dollar transition to digital. Free Radio commentors like the CDC are expected to argue that IBOC and LPFM can co-exist and that in any case, diversity on the airwaves and the ability to have alternative viewpoints discussed is vitally important to a democratic society and cannot be sacrificed to a new technological toy like IBOC.

Mutually Exclusive Licenses

A critical issue raised by the NPRM is how the FCC would resolve conflicting applications, i.e. when two individuals or entities applied for a license on the same frequency in the same area. These are called “mutually exclusive” applications. If the FCC licenses both commercial and non-commercial LPFM stations, the NPRM indicates that federal law will require the FCC to conduct an auction, giving the frequency to the highest bidder where two persons apply for the same frequency for commercial uses.

In resolving mutually exclusive applications between two non-commercial applicants (applications will be virtually free), the FCC requests comments about which of three models it should use: (1) lottery; (2) point system; and (3) first come, first served.

In a lottery system, a license would be awarded at random, perhaps with extra chances awarded to increase ethnic diversity or based on other factors. In a point system, applicants would receive points for various characteristics (ethnic diversity, local control, affiliation with an accredited school, etc.) and the applicant with the most points would be awarded the license. In a first come, first served system, the first person to get an application on file would receive the license.

his is a very important issue. Hundreds or thousands of mutually exclusive applications for LPFM stations can be expected, especially in urban areas. Religious broadcasters may often compete with community groups for access to LPFM.

In another rulemaking proceeding regarding high power non-commercial licenses, the FCC indicates that where there was a mutually exclusive application involving a commercial vs. a non-commercial applicant (on the FM band above 92 MHz) the FCC could either automatically favor the non-commercial license or perhaps decide the issue with a lottery or point system. If the non-commercial appli
cant lost in a lottery or point system, then an auction would be conducted for the commercial spot.

Some activists have suggested resolving the mutual exclusivity problem by setting up regional associations which would “register” rather than license stations. The association would negotiate compromises in the case of competing applications by working out sharing arrangements. For example, two stations could share a frequency by broadcasting at different times of day, by raising or lowering power at different times of day, or by even sharing a single transmitter and studio. The FCC would set up rules requiring all those interested in LPFM broadcasting to set up an association which would work out competing interests and monitor LPFM radio. The FCC would not issue licenses as such and would cede control to the association as long as there was no interference.

Others have proposed that each radio market should have at least one “public access” radio station where various members of the community could produce programs. Finally, some others favor expanding the radio spectrum down to 75 Mhz (by eliminating broadcasts on TV channel 6) to open up more opportunities for LPFM broadcasts and avoid or decrease mutually exclusivity problems.

The NPRM also seeks comment on how long a license should run, and on whether the licenses should be renewable or non-renewable. Having short (5-8 year) license periods which were not renewable might permit others to take their turn at the microphone and might help to solve mutual exclusivity problems, since an applicant denied a license could reapply in a few years.

What You Can Do

Anyone can submit comments to the FCC about the NPRM on or before April 12, 1999. The more people who submit comments, the better. See the sidebar to this article for a list of subjects on which to comment.

The FCC requests that people file their comments by computer if possible. This is also the easiest way to file. If you have access to the web, go to the site and select “comment” off the first screen you see. This will get you to the Electronic Comment Filing System where you can make your comment in only a few minutes. The number of the proceeding is MM Docket No. 99-25.

Alternatively, you can submit comments by e-mailing with the message “get form ” to get a form and filing instructions. To submit comments by mail, write to Magalie Roman Salas, Office of the Secretary, TW-A306, FCC, 445 12th Street. S.W., Washington DC 20554. To file by mail you have to include 4 copies plus a disk with your comments, plus a cover letter with other info, so it might be better to file electronically if you possibly can.

For more information on the Notice of Proposed Rule Making or the Free Radio Movement, contact the following: Committee on Democratic Communications, 558 Capp Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 (415) 522-9814, MicroRadio Empowerment Coalition,

Suggested items for public comment

Following are suggested points persons filing comments with the FCC could make in their comments. While comments simply supporting the creation of low power FM licensing are important and necessary, it is crucial that the FCC select the best portions of its current proposal so that the legalization of community radio is more than a token gesture. The new radio service must be geared towards local, grassroots uses, and must be available even to tiny groups of people with a few hundred dollars. Most importantly, the new rules should be designed to permit the maximum number of new stations possible.

1. The FCC should only license non-commercial Low Power FM stations. Licenses should be granted to either non-profit corporations or unincorporated associations with bylaws meeting simple minimum standards.

2. The FCC should license stations between 10-100 watts, similar to LP100 stations discussed in the NPRM, but should not license 500-1000 watt (LP1000) stations.

3. LP100 stations should not be relegated to “secondary status” but should be licensed as a Primary Service. 4. No individual or entity should be permitted to own more than one LPFM station nationally or locally, and owners of high power FM or AM stations should not be permitted to own LPFM stations.

5. LPFM stations should not be required to provide 2nd or 3rd-adjacent protection to other stations.

6. LPFM stations should only be licensed to groups or individuals who reside in the community the station would serve. 7. At least 80 percent of the programming on LPFM stations should be locally originated, using live local DJ. (They could play music and interviews, etc., on their shows.)

8. The FCC should resolve mutually exclusive applications with a weighted lottery and should issue 5 year non-renewable licenses. 9. Owners of LPFM stations should not be permitted to sell or transfer their licenses. Otherwise, people will apply just to later “traffic” in licenses.

10. If the FCC decides to permit commercial LPFM stations, the FCC should give preference to a non-commercial applicant where a commercial and non-commercial applicant seek a license for the same channel in the same area.

Stop the Invasion Of Oakland Protests set for March 15 and 20

“Urban Warrior”, the Marine Corps wargame in which 6,000 Marines will practice invading Oakland and Alameda March 15-18, followed by an exposition of military hardware and ships at Jack London Square March 19-21, is an incredibly insidious exercise in militarism and US corporate global domination. Using Harrier jets, helicopters, hovercraft, humvees, armored personnel carriers and firing thousands of rounds of blank ammunition, the wargame is ostensibly designed to test the Marines ability to fight in an “urban” context.

Marine Corps commanders reason that as globalization and US corporate domination concentrate billions of poor people world-wide into dense urban areas, the Marines have to be prepared to put down the inevitable rebellions that will develop. A 1997 press release from the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), which is organizing the Oakland invasion, notes that by 2020, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities and that the “many areas will have scarce resources . . . As populations grow and resources shrink even further, the chances for conflict will naturally grow. . . Tactics and doctrine must be refined and modified . . . to meet the challenges of future urban warfare.”

According to Lt. Gen. John Rhodes, commander of the US Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia, which hosts the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “there is a good chance we are going to fight in the urban environment, whether it’s skyscrapers, a slum or urban sprawl. . . [F]uture Marines will fight in the air, in buildings, on the streets and in subways or sewers – simultaneously.”

The Marines have been the premiere arm of US imperialism for over 200 years, conducting over 400 invasions or military interventions. Most of these have been to protect US corporate interests and property, and almost all have been against third-world poor people fighting for freedom from US economic domination.

Of even more concern for domestic activists are Marine claims that Urban Warrior will practice “counter-terrorist” tactics. These may secretly be for use on US soil. During Urban Warrior, the Marines will test “non-lethal” riot control gear and in other wargames over the last two years, the Marines have tested drones that can drop smoke or pepper spray for crowd control.

In similar war games taking place in Monterey on March 13, local students will play “urban terrorists.” “We will eliminate the terrorist threat and we will simulate the release of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, in this case something like anthrax, although it will actually just be water,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Schenkel.

It doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to realize that crowd control and “counter-terrorism” tactics designed for overseas urban areas are also highly useful to suppress political dissent or riots here at home. Perhaps it is no accident that Urban Warrior will be conducted in Oakland, where grinding poverty make future riots likely. Similar urban wargames conducted by the Marine Warfighting Lab over the last two years have been in Chicago, New York, Charleston, NC and Jacksonville, FL, all cities with large poor and non-white populations.

As to training to fight “terrorism”, one side’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Earth First! and other non-violent groups in the US have been termed “terrorist” by right-wing bureaucrats and corporations threatened by protests.

Whether the Marines are training to suppress people’s movements overseas or at home, the Marines serve a single master: US corporate capitalism. The military and the government, observing the growing problems of global poverty and urban desperation, are more interested in learning how to kill the urban masses than feed them, because US corporate interests require global urban poverty to more effectively extract cheap labor for overseas production.

Even putting aside the geo-political implications of a well-trained Marine Corps fighting “insurgents” in “dense urban neighborhoods”, Urban Warrior is terrible for the City of Oakland. In a city ravaged with street violence, the wargame teaches the “government approved” way to solve problems. As one anti-Marine flyer put it “A Marine invasion, guns ablazing, is a poor example for communities like ours struggling to rid themselves of violence.”

The military exercise and the exposition at Jack London Square following it appear designed as a propaganda blitz in favor of bloated military budgets. Further, at a time when the military services are having difficulty meeting their quotas with voluntarily recruiting, the wargames are designed to attract disadvantaged Oaklanders into the services.

Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and Alameda Mayor Ralph Appazzetto have welcomed the Marines with open arms (and without any public notice, discussion or democratic process), “drooling at the Marines’ bizarre promise to spend $4.5 million on shopping while they are here” according to one flyer. Each of the 6,000 Marines would have to spend $750 during their brief stay in Oakland to drop $4.5 million on the local economy, which seems unlikely given that they won’t have to pay for lodging or food.

Given the massive annual flow of money from Oakland to Washington to fund the $300 billion plus military budget, maybe Mayor Brown should try fighting to reduce useless military expenditures so a few crumbs can be sent to Oakland, not blindly supporting the 900 pound gorilla. One of the few ways a Marine might spend $750 in 4 days is on prostitution, which brings to mind Mayor Brown and his rationale for supporting “Urban Warrior”.

Oakland residents have already held one protest against the wargames, and others are planned. Some creative souls have suggested huge toddler birthday parties on the beach prior to the invasion, or topless swimming to distract the marines as they come ashore. Another idea is to assist the marines in their simulated urban warfare by creating massive traffic jams around the exercises, such as those that would surely result from any invasion. One action group plans to confront Mayor Brown at all of his public appearances and drown out his public addresses with a recording of The Marine Hymn. Other creative ideas are of course welcome during the occupation.

What You Can Do

Contact the Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop the Urban Warriors at 510-654-5628 or the Coalition Against Urban Warfare at 510-834-2630 for more information. Protests against Urban Warrior are scheduled for March 15 from 8 a.m. – noon to protest the landing of the Marines. Another protest is scheduled from Noon-3 p.m. at Jack London Square to protest the exposition of military hardware there that will follow the wargames.

Legalized Cop Violence

“When a gang member is beaten by persons unknown in a mixed neighborhood, and the black gangs begin terrorizing whites, it is called racism, a bunch of cops can ride through black neighborhoods all day beatin’ ass, and call it law, when a bunch of blacks beat one of these cops’ ass it’s called mob violence.” John Africa (May 1967)

A young woman, engulfed in a diabetic coma while sitting in her car, is repeatedly shot by a corps of cops, who say they are threatened by the young woman. Tyesha Miller, of Riverside, California, becomes a statistic.

A young man sitting in his car in North Philly is surrounded by a phalanx of armed cops, whose guns are pointed at him from all points. He is ordered to raise his hands. When he does so, he is shot to death by one of the cops, who insists he thought he saw a gun. The 18-year old is unarmed. Dontae Dawson becomes a statistic.

An emigrant from the West African nation of Guinea comes to America, taking an apartment in New York’s Bronx Borough. When four NYPD cops approach his door, reportedly because of a suspected rape (he was not a suspect), he is shot at 41 times. Nineteen shots hit him. Amadou Diallo was unarmed, and will never return to West Africa.

In case after case after case, in city after city, from coast to coast, such cases arise with alarming regularity, worsened by the realization that, in most cases, cops who have committed these acts, that if committed by others would constitute high crimes, will face no serious prosecution, if any prosecution at all.

They are, the corporate media assures us, “just doing their jobs”, “under an awful lot of pressure”, or “in fear”, and therefore justified in what they do. In the language of the media, the very media that make their millions off of the punishment industry calling for the vilest sentences known to man, turn, in the twinkling of an eye, into paragons of mercy, who lament that the “fine young men” who “served their community” are in “trouble”, or have “suffered enough.”

The suffering of the slain, because they are young, and black, are all but forgotten in this unholy algebra that devalues Black life, while heightening the worth of the assailants because they work for the state.

The worst lie that is often trotted out when such cases occur is when politicians and media people sing the praises of such people, who are called, by virtue of their jobs, “public servants.” Since when have servants (of any kind) acted in the vile, arrogant, monstrous manner that many of these cops do in Black, Hispanic and poor communities? Since when have such servants been in the position to slaughter, shoot, humiliate and imprison the very public they are sworn to serve?

They are servants, if at all, of the political structures of which they are a part, not of the people. They are servants, if at all, of the state. They serve the interests of capital, of the wealthy, of those who run this system from their bank vaults and corporate offices.

They do not serve the poor, the powerless, nor the uninfluential. They never have.

They are an armed force organized to protect the interests of the established, and those who own capital. The history of labor in this country is splattered by the blood of trade unionists who were beaten, shot and crushed to the earth for striking against the trusts, combinations, and megacorporations of capital. Who did the beating? The shooting? The crushing? The cops, who served the interests of a state that declared, as did the Supreme Court, that unions were “criminal conspiracies”, and that “The Constitution was. . . based upon the concept that the fundamental private rights of property are anterior to government and morally beyond the reach of popular majorities”.

Capital’s voice (the media) and their agents (the politicians) unite in a chorus of support for their legalized killers, who bomb babies with impunity (remember May 13, 1985 – Philadelphia), who shoot unarmed kids in their cars, and unarmed African emigrants, whose only capital crime is being Black in modern-day America.

This legalized violence that they do daily proves that violence is not a problem to the system – when it is their’s against the people. This awful crime must cease.

Slingshot Box

Welcome to the Green Issue, Spring 1999 and our 11th Birthday! Hard to imagine that a project such as Slingshot could survive this long. Through the years we’ve refined our process from painful, dreaded meetings, to politically vital and most importantly fun and productive collective discussions. We’re looking forward to new improvements, additions, and maybe even new projects. We now do layout with custom Slingshot armbands and headbands, plenty of chocolate, and even pesto and singing. We still use wax and scisors, not computers, to give it the authentic Slingshot look and allow as many people as possible to participate in the process.

This past month we’ve welcomed some revolutionary computer geeks, who are working hard to improve our online presence. We’ve added to the Slingshot Archives, and will continue to enhance the site, so you’ll be able to see our changes through the years. We hope, eventually, to have complimentary online components, publishing things on the web that we can’t or don’t print. Are you interested in anything specific on the website? We’ve moved the site to They are an interesting online squatting space, check them out. You can also send your articles, comments or whatever to us at our new email address This will reliably have your ideas and articles arrive to Slingshot.

We’re always looking for writers, artists, photographers, editors, distributors and free-thinkers to make the paper better. Slingshot accepts unsolicited articles. Please send a disk if you can.

Slingshot is a quarterly, independent, radical newspaper published in the East Bay since 1988. Editorial decisions about Slingshot are made by the Slingshot collective. Articles do not necessarily represent the opinions of everyone in Slingshot. We welcome debate, discussion and criticism.

Slingshot Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved in Slingshot can meet with us on April 11 at 4pm. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline & Next Issue Date

The projected deadline for article submission for Issue #65 is May 18, 1999. Issue #65 is expected to be out on June 3,1999.

Printed March 4, 1999

Volume 1, Number 64 Circulation: 10,000

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Donate to Slingshot

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Letter: Three Strikes

Dear Slingshot,

At present I’m doing 51 years to life for 2-(10851s’) driving a vehilce without the owners consent. Under California’s new 3x strike law, any new felony (3rd felony) requires a 25 to life sentence. In my case, I had 2 joy ridings, and since they are considered felonies under California’s new 3x strike law, I was sentenced to two 25 to life terms plus a 1 year prison prior enhancement.

I already had two prior strikes dating back to 1985 and since the 3x strike law of 1994 was applied retroactively, well, my prior qualified me for the 3x strikes and your out provision.

I am not taking this laying down but rather, I’m reaching out to organizations and publisists as well as political powers to try and be heard.

F.A.C.T.S. [Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes-see address below-ed.] is trying to gain public support and rally up public awareness to the unjustifiable application of the 3x strike law. Their goal is to limit the application of the 3x strike law, so that it would only apply to serious and violent felonies.

It makes me feel good when I write to someone. By reaching out and expressing my views, concerns and beliefs, I feel that there is hope, and that someday my circumstance will change because “I didn’t take it laying down.”

p.s. 51 years to life, for a two minor wobbler offenses; has society forgotten that I’m someones’ brother, uncle, and son?

God Bless, Jesse Gomez, K-626067, Pelican Bay State Prison, B.6.224, PO Box 7000, Crescent City, CA 95531.

To contact Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, contact PO Box 21613, San Jose, CA 95151, 408-977-2121. They are pushing legislation to amend Three Strikes.

Millions for Mumia March

The Millions for Mumia rally in Philadelphia, PA on April 24, 1999. Why?

– To show that the Mumia case is one of an imprisoned individual fighting against the repressive state.

– To show the anarchist movement can cooperate despite differences, different groups and tendencies.

– To be visible, fly the black flag of anarchism, to hand out fliers or newspapers giving an anarchist view of the case, to shout anarchist slogans.

9 To try to steer the movement toward more militancy.

The call is merely a general call for an increased anarchist presence. Any other/better ideas? You don’t like it? Contact us at: email: or post: Black Bloc c/o P 563 Morgantown, WV 26507.

Healing Global Wounds

Honoring the Mother
Mother’s Day, May 7-10
Nevada Test Site

Western Shoshone lands were stolen for the creation of the Nevada Test Site where ongoing subcritical nuclear weapons tests are going on with regularity. On Mother’s Day there will be a gathering to demand an end to all nuclear weapons development programs and an immediate halt to the dumping of deadly nuclear waste on the land. The epicenter for the nuclear industry is at the Nevada Test Site, but many organizations are organizing local events in order to visibly demonstrate the links in the nuclear chain and show widespread solidarity and respect for mothers standing in defense of their lands, families and cultural rights.

The Spring Gathering will include a Mother’s Day brunch and rally at the Test Site gates; community building, nonviolence training, daily sunrise ceremonies and sweat lodges, Atomic Cafe, campfires and drumming.

For more information contact: Healing Global Wounds, PO Box 420, Tecopa, CA 92389. Phone 760-852-4175.

Women's History Project

The Women’s guerrilla history project is a group of women who make posters of important, inspirational, amazing women and then wheatpaste the posters all over San Francisco. The goal is to make a more visible and public presense of women’s history, to allow the everyday random passerby to learn something of women’s history and then wonder why these accomplishments aren’t really celebrated or even known about.

The project started last March to celebrate women’s history month. There have been posters of religious leaders, artists, political prisoners, family members, all sorts of women. Anyone is fair game, from Margaret Mead and Charlotte Corday to ancient goddesses and Ani DiFranco.

In a city adorned with advertisements which depict stereotypical and/or sexist images of women, it is a powerful statement to plaster the urban landscape with posters of our role models. This isn’t a “Don’t-try-this-at-home” project. Wheatpaste can be found in your local hardware store, in the wallpaper aisle.

Go for it

121 Centre in Danger of Eviction

The 18-year-old 121 Social Centre squat in South London is in danger of being shut down by the police as Slingshot goes to press. A squat for anti-fascists, feminists, folkies, autonomists, socialists, bike enthusiasts, punks, anti-racists, disabled liberationists, prison activists and others, 121 Centre is ready for a riot. They have been occupied 24 hours a day and has been closed to public events for tactical reasons.

The Centre collective and users have produced 2 editions of “South London Stress”, a newsletter exposing gentrification of Brixton and the council’s attacks on 121. By selling the property, Brixton would be loosing its source of cheap entertainment and free advice on legal rights, only to be replaced by corporate profits and high price entertainment. The barricades are up, and 121 Centre is prepared for the probable surprise eviction.

For up to the minute info go to their website

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Police Evict Anti-road Occupation

For years, radical environmentalists, community activists, and traditionalists in England have banded together in a non-violent, direct-action movement to halt the construction of new roads. Road-building bifurcates communities, destroys open space and natural areas, and promotes ever-increasing congestion and pollution through increased car use. The Minnehaha Free State in Minneapolis represents the first major anti-roads effort in the US.

On December 20, 1998, just after 4 am, 7 Rider trucks stormed into a residential Minneapolis neighborhood at dangerously high speeds with their lights turned off. As each drove up beside a different house, men dressed in black piled out, some wearing gas masks, some carrying tear gas canisters, some touting laser-scope assault weapons. Soon an area about the size of a full city block was cordoned off. Helicopters hovered overhead. Sniper units were visible. Six hundred troopers were present in what became the largest police action in Minnesota history.

Inside the houses, young women and men woke to the horror of tear gas-filled rooms (rooms as small as 10′ x 10′ were bombarded with up to five canisters of the toxin). Those who did not vacate quickly discovered troopers penetrating their barricades. The troopers beat some people severely. One woman’s nose was pushed back so hard that it broke. One man had his head beaten bloody as the raiders carried him out of a basement, forcing his head into each stair. Many of the 37 people arrested had pepper spray applied directly and repeatedly to their open eyes. Nearly everyone was denied medical attention.

What heinous crime had we committed that won us such treatment? We had dared to oppose the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s (MnDOT) bureaucratic plan to reroute a highway (HWY 55) through a working class neighborhood and a city park; a reroute that would pave over an old-growth oak savanna, that would destroy sites sacred to the Mdewakanton Dakota, that would threaten the last remaining cold water spring in the Twin Cities; a reroute that for 40 years the neighborhood had fought every step of the way through the legal process.

When the legal system failed them, the community resistance to the HWY 55 reroute invited Big Woods Earth First! to utilize its nonviolent direct action tactics in defense of the area. Through Earth First!, the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and the American Indian Movement (AIM) became involved in the struggle. The Mendota were the original inhabitants of the condemned area, and were actually promised this-and much more-land by the US government in an 1863 treaty. On August 10 of last year-the day the first homes were scheduled for demolition-Earth First!, the Mendota, AIM and others began a nonviolent occupation on the condemned corridor. The Minnehaha Free State was declared.

A multi-tactic, popular campaign ensued, carried out by a broad-based, cross-cultural coalition. While members of the “Stop the Reroute” neighborhood coalition continued pursuing lawsuits and other legal means, Earth First! set up lockdowns in and around the condemned homes. Tree houses went up. The Mendota Mdewakanton and AIM set up tipis, sacred staffs and a sacred fire and began effective organizing within the native community. Supporters from all over the city brought supplies such as batteries for the radio communications system, food, clothing, tents, and blankets. An empty shed made way for a free store in order to distribute the goods, and occupants shared labor and food in the free kitchen. Late-season victory gardens replaced neatly mowed lawns.

Soon the occupation became a cultural center in the Twin Cities. A stage was erected to host open-mike coffeehouses. The Critical Mass bike ride made a point of swinging by on its monthly routes. Sweats and other Native American ceremonies were held regularly. Over 500 people attended a pow-wow where it was heartwarming to watch scores of families walking past “NO TRESPASSING” signs as if they didn’t even notice them. Our “diggeresque” presence on state-acquired land challenged the very notion that land can be owned at all, especially in light of the fact that half our camp was comprised of American Indians, from whom all land on this continent was stolen in the first place.

The encampment resurrected a repressed collective memory. On two occasions I observed passerby commenting, “This reminds me of the Peoples Park in Berkeley.” Behind the scenes of a political struggle, we were experimenting with an alternative way of living and structuring society. We practiced consensus decision-making, out of which came the Minnehaha declaration:

  • We came here on August 10th, 1998 to protect Minneapolis Green Spaces and to Stop the Reroute of HWY 55 through Minnehaha park.

  • We established the Free State on the principles of nonviolence and group consensus.

  • We demand that HWY 55 not be rerouted through the park and that any “safety improvements” do not increase the road capacity. More road capacity only increases traffic without reducing congestion. We must end our addiction to cars.

  • We demand the preservation of all current green space.

  • We demand the recognition as a sovereign community the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota.

  • We support the demand of the Mendota Mdewankanton Dakota for the repatriation of their land as laid out in the Act of Congress of 1863.

  • We will not voluntarily leave this site until the rerouting of HWY 55 is canceled, the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota community recognized as sovereign, and all land claims are upheld.

    MnDOT made a gigantic tactical mistake when it decided to play a waiting game with us, in hopes that we would fade away. This gave us the opportunity to escalate the campaign through banner drops, rallies, door to door outreach and even a hunger strike, and most importantly this gave us the time we needed to build a stronger and wider movement to stop this ever-increasingly unpopular road project.

    The urban setting gave Earth First! an opportunity to unite with other revolutionary struggles. The Free State regularly sent large contingents to Free Mumia protests, anti-police brutality marches, and rallies and civil disobedience to end the bombing and sanctions against Iraq. As a result, many of the people fighting for these causes were drawn into the campaign to stop the reroute. And as a result of Earth First! taking on a fairly mainstream community’s struggle, many seemingly extreme tactics were taken out of the fringe-while not compromising Earth First! principles. Entire elementary school classes would tour the encampment, learning not only how to lockdown to a tripod or concrete barrel, but also why someone might do such a thing.

    The powers that be want Earth First! to be in the fringe. The powers that be want movements like Earth First! and AIM to be unable to work together. The powers that be want communities to be dysfunctional, unable to organize against unpopular projects. In short, the powers that be want to continue as the powers that be, and are therefore strategically opposed to the empowerment of people and communities. In the Minnehaha bioregion, we began to effectively empower communities. As a result, we faced harsh repression. The behavior displayed by police during the first raid (on October 14 to shut off the houses’ utilities), though brutal, was only a taste of things to come. Thereafter we would be heavily infiltrated by provocateurs and informants. And finally, in the cold pre-dawn hours of December 20, though not officially declared, martial law was implemented.

    I have been involved in multi-issue activism and nonviolent resistance to social, economic, political, and ecological injustices for several years now. I’ve encountered the occasional overzealous police officer, but never have I encountered anything like what I experienced on that December night. The torture of the tear gas had already taken its toll on my roommate and me when we locked down to the
    cement-filled fireplace in the basement. Immediately thereafter we heard what sounded like ten or more troopers storming down the stairs. The walls shook violently as they tried to ram down the wall. Frightened voices angrily shouted, “Come out NOW!!!…You’d better come out NOW!!!… You’d better not have any weapons in there!… You’d better have your hands up when we break this wall down cause we’ve got our guns drawn!” The room was dimly lit, and my partner and I felt we were in serious danger of getting shot once the wall came down. We attempted once more, in our pathetic crying voices (from the tear gas), to explain to the police (who should have known) that we were nonviolent. We then unlocked and came out of the room very slowly and very cautiously, to find laser scopes pinpointed on us. Once in custody the troopers immediately demanded, “Where are the booby-traps?” and “Where are the weapons?”.

    Usually officers are trained on how to handle nonviolent demonstrators. Usually they are somewhat embarrassed at worst-never frightened. There was no reason to be frightened, unless they were purposefully being misinformed by superiors, which it seems was the case. I don’t care to speculate about the motive behind disseminating such dis-information, but people could have been killed, and many people were hurt badly, and this was the most horrible night of my life. Yet I was treated better than many of my friends, some of whom were beaten and/or had pepper spray gel rubbed directly in their eyes and mouths in order to get them to unlock.

    Though the manufacturers of pepper spray say explicitly that it should only be used to restrain violent criminals, and never as a pain compliance tool, in late 1997 California police began using it as such against nonviolent Earth First! protesters. The four young women who were tortured with pepper spray (in order to force them to abandon an office occupation against Pacific Lumber) had their excessive force lawsuit thrown out just days before the raid on the Minnehaha Free State. Minnesota state troopers were acting on a national precedent, but they took it even one step further, using pepper gel on some protesters not only as a way to get them to unlock, but even after they were handcuffed and in custody. The perpetrators of this torture can’t possibly offer any justification for these acts, and probably they won’t have to because, unlike the California case where the whole scene was videotaped, in Minnesota they barred the press entirely from the raid. Independent press corps journalist Dick Bancroft was actually arrested. His camera was confiscated, and when it was returned, his film, which had captured the illegal destruction of AIM’s sacred drum, was missing.

    Though the state put us through a living hell, and tried to break our spirits, and though the houses were demolished within hours of the raid, still the old growth oak savanna, the cold water spring and the sacred sites remain, and the campaign to stop the reroute continues. Only days after the raid, protesters returned to the corridor with tipis, buses, tree sits, and other various structures. Complaints and lawsuits-concerning the violations of constitutional and human rights by police during the raid-are underway. Also a judge recently ordered MnDOT to undergo federal mediation with the Mendota and other signers of one lawsuit. Minnehaha Uber Alles!

    To help, contact Governor Jesse Ventura at State Capitol, 175 Constitutional Ave., St. Paul, MN 55155; 651-296-3391, and suggest he cancel this highway project. Contact police chief Robert Olson at 350 5th St., Minneapolis, MN 55415; 612-673-3383, and ask him what’s up with his decision to use pepper-gel? Contact MnDOT Commisioner Elwin Tinklenberg at 395 John Ireland Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155; 651-296-3000 and ask him who really thinks it’s a good idea to pave a sacred site of inestimable environmental and cultural value? We also need lots of money to help with huge legal costs and continued actions against HWY 55. Send donations c/o Big Woods EF!, POB 580936, Minneapolis, MN 55485.